13 December 2013
I sing you this last lullaby
Even though you’re too big to hold
Too cold to sigh
Too young to die
No words of comfort for your mum
No jokes, no words of advice
Just that smile that beguiled me from your first breath
In photos posed for patiently
On your coming and going
One final pose, the long sleep, tucked in
22 February 2012
I began this on January 17, 2012. People recommend one write to help with the grief. When I write, I can never finish anything because I end up weeping. This is as finished as it gets.
I wasn't looking forward to Christmas. I’d been downloading Christmas music, listening to it in the cabin, in the car, trying to gain some enthusiasm for the season, but after John and I had a couple phone calls, a couple emails, suddenly, we were going to spend Christmas in Atlanta, with John, and I started to get excited.
The plan was to finish the semester, all the grading and calculating and submitting of grades, then drive to Georgia. We would leave the 21st or so, take two days to get there, spend Christmas with John and his girlfriend, then drive home over another couple of days.
They take the day off to go biking. Something – a barbecue place – takes them to Gainesville, Georgia. They enjoy their meal and get back on the road. The girlfriend says she’s cold, so he turns around on his newest prized possession, a 2006 Harley Road King Classic. They approach a notorious intersection when a 67-year old woman driving a Chrysler minivan absent-mindedly decides to make a left turn into Kroger’s. John applies the rear brake, so he won’t lay the bike down or flip. He applies the front brake. The girlfriend is thrown from the bike, nearly into oncoming traffic. John smashes into the passenger-side pillar of the minivan, the blunt force trauma transecting his aorta. He falls to the cold pavement, face down, nearly dead, if not dead already. The aorta is the largest artery in the human body, originating from the left ventricle of the heart and extending down to the abdomen, where it bifurcates into two smaller arteries … The aorta distributes oxygenated blood to all parts of the body through the systemic circulation.
I’m still not over the week-long cold I've had. Orvy goes out to feed the horses because it’s cold and damp outside, and he wants me to be well for our Christmas trip. My mobile phone rings. Some woman who identifies herself as a nurse from some ER in Gainesville, Georgia, asks for Orvy. I’m nearly rude. Why phone me if you want to talk to Orvy? He’s outside, busy. If I can’t take a message, you’ll have to call back in about a half an hour. I start to pace. There’s something wrong about the phone call, about a call from an ER in Georgia, but my mind won’t process, refuses to make any connections. Orvy comes back in. I tell him about the phone call, and he returns the call. I’m still pacing.
Orvy presents the news as if it may be wrong. As if someone is mistaken. Even though I can’t breathe, burst into tears, moan, “No! No! No! No!” I know it’s true. We make plans to drive to Georgia, not in two days, but straight through. I drive over a dead deer and a huge piece of tire tread on the way there. It spatters blood all over one wheel well. It cracks my rear bumper. We make our first stop the motel, check in, and go to the hospital to visit the girlfriend. She’s lucky to be alive. But it’s all true about John. They ask us if we want the clothes they cut off of him.
Over the next few days, I can’t sleep until I’m exhausted. Sleep lasts for a few hours, and then I wake. Reality hits me, and I burst into tears. That’s the way I start every morning. Then I talk to morticians, lawyers, his friends, his coworkers. The girlfriend becomes increasingly distraught. The lawyers suggest we have no further communication.
I bring John’s ashes home in a lovely wooden box. Everything else I have to leave in a storage shed in Georgia. And what of the minivan driver? She has lots of insurance. She has a husband, whose name the insurance is in. She is charged with failure to yield. My 35-year old son who loved to skydive, travel, ride his motorcycle, had been recently promoted, who answered the question, “How are you?” with “Living the dream!” is gone. And all I have left is